Heimspiel¹

The first beyondtellerrand conference takes place in Düsseldorf on November 21st and 22nd. Early bird tickets are on sale now, for 175€ (VAT included). That’s a steal for speakers like Jeremy Keith, Naomi Atkinson, Simon Collison and Tomas Caspers.

It won’t be a long travel for us, only like 25 minutes by train, as we live and work around the corner of Düsseldorf, yet we really appreciate that Marc Thiele manages to bring those people to Germany, the first time ever that such a quality event is held here.

Oh, and if you’re interested in getting into the nitty gritty with web techniques there are three workshops on the day before the conference and there are still tickets available:

  • Creative JavaScript and HTML 5 by Seb Lee-Delisle 
  • Defining a Flexible Process by Simon Collison 
  • Responsive Enhancement by Jeremy Keith

Get them while availability lasts!

¹ Heimspiel [ˈhaɪ̯mʃpiːl]: German for “home advantage”, describes the advantage–usually a psychological advantage–that the home team is said to have over the visiting team as a result of playing in familiar facilities and in front of supportive fans. (Wikipedia)

Webinale 2011

Back from San Diego, with only one night to cure our jet-lag, we moved on to Berlin to speak at the Webinale. Eric and I talked about how we won the German accessibility award BIENE with our web worker regular’s table BPSE. It was a lot of fun and we would have liked to stay, but since I had a really bad flu we left right after our talk. The talk was in German, here are the slides:

Mit Spaß und Teamwork zur goldenen BIENE

Valiocon 2011

Looks like we’re busy again, but there is no excuse for not blogging about our latest conference adventure: Valiocon. Thanks to Drew Wilson and crew we had a lot of fun in Carlsbad, CA.

Bonfire

Nerds with camerasIt all started with a party bus that took us to a nice evening bonfire in Oceanside, and the next morning a small photowalk down to the beach, followed by a nice breakfast with pancakes, scrambled eggs and the like.

Brad Smith of Virb fame took the first session and delivered an outstanding talk about entrepreneurship, and how virb reinvented themselves as not only a web service but as a company as well.

Anton Zyklin’s first talk ever really rocked. The SoftFaçade guy flew over from St. Petersburg in Russia with his colleague Dimitry Tsozik (who did the evening workshop) and gave us an insight into modern icon development.

Next up was Ethan Dunham, from FontSquirrel and FontSpring fame, who delivered one of the talks with the most new insights for me personally: it is the first time that I’ve actually understood why kerning for Windows machines is such a big deal and that this is the reason for the slow adoption by the foundries. And he showed how to use a subset of Opentype features in the browsers of today, using intelligent font substitution and the font stack.

Jina Bolton speaking“CSS Workflow with SASS” was something I was looking forward to, and Jina Bolton didn’t disappoint. Apart from how she organizes her Files and Folders (we saw that at Fronteers 2010 already) she quickly got into the details of SASS, showing positive and negative aspects of the technique.

While I’m not really sold on that we need CSS parsers I can see how some projects can benefit, for example, as Jina noted, that the clearfix class is not in the html anymore. It may appear several times in your CSS, but the HTML stays clean which may be the higher goal. (I wonder why those mixins are not parsed into multiple selectors, not repeating anythong, but that is up to the developers.)

Another aspect that I thought is very valuable is a “style guide”: every html element is shown as (here: haml) html and with styles applied.

David Kaneda then rocked the show with a demonstration of Sencha Touch for mobile web apps, and told us how important it is, to not look only to native apps as not everyone has an iPhone. At the same time web apps shouldn’t mimic native apps, as they are shown on many different devices. The responsiveness of sencha touch is really breathtaking. Made for mobile.

At the icon workshop, Dimitry built an icon in time-lapse mode. Those photoshop skills are horrifying. The day closed with a drink night in the hotel yard where everyone had the chance to get a funny photo of themselves taken at photo wall.

3 nerds posing like a boy group

Mike Rundle started Sunday morning with a talk about iOS development, which was fairly interesting as he described how web developers can use their existing knowledge to transfer over.

Dave Hill then showed us the creation of his awesome photos, which he puts together in a really long creative process from photos of a shoot and various other objects he shot before. The result are gorgeous realistic looking photos.

Rogie King is “Designing for the Client” and told us about that very topic. His background as a waiter makes him to make every client happy at all cost, even if this minimizes his revenue. The result for him is a stellar relationship to his clients, which he now calls “friends”. I think it is quite a unique approach to relationships with your customers, which are – at least here in europe – much more impersonal.

“New web technologies” by Chris Lea was really exciting. He showed to us like NO SQL (“not only SQL”), MongoDB and Node.js can improve websites in the future.

Last, but not least, Mike Rundle took the Workshop chair to lead us through the development of an iPhone app. While I liked to know more about iOS development, the workshop, apart from being quite basic, I could’t really follow his talk.

Eric, pointing at the valiocon poster

One reason is that we like the open web, so developing native but closed solution isn’t our thing. The other reason was, that I won the ValioCon iPad in the break before his talk and had to activate it and set it up.

BTW: I’m typing this article on that very iPad right now. Thanks Drew and team for the reward of our long journey to the conference.

We had a lot of fun!

Note: In the meantime Drew launched the Valiocon 2012 website with all videos of the 2011 conference. We won’t make it in 2012, but we recommend attending. Early bird tickets are on sale now.

Amsterdam again

We posted about Fronteers 2010 earlier this year, now the team announced the dates for later this year: October 6th and 7th will see the 4th annual conference. Of course we’ll go there, tickets go on sale in March, and you’ll get a lot of value for your money. And the best conference seats ever in the Tuschinski movie theater.

While the official web site doesn’t tell anything about speakers, Chris Heilmann and Lea Verou are already noted as speakers on Lanyrd.

We look forward to seeing you there!

(BTW: They used this picture by @ScreenOrigami on their web site, see the whole Fronteers 2010 flickr set.)

New Adventures in Web Design

We’re back from a great week in Nottingham. (Actually we’re back for a while, but try to tell clients that you have to write a blog post.) Thanks to Simon Collison for organizing a nice event.

The Bowling Event

Falling bowling pins

While the event itself was nice, bowling wasn’t that communicative and people on individual lanes didn’t mix much, so we had barely a chance to speak to people we didn’t know previously. Also it was hard to know what the score was on all lanes.

The Conference

People waiting in line for New Adventures

CollyNew Adventures was a great experience that started with a small 30min delay because it was very hard to get all attendees into the Albert Hall. The talks were very inspirational and delivered to the spot. It all began with Dan Rubin (@danrubin), who made a great point in creating a new language for the web. What is the point in speaking about a “page” in Web Design when there isn’t anything like that in the web. It is time that the business grows up and invents its own terms or at least borrows them from disciplines that are not related to our profession, like “Responsive Web Design” (from architecture) did.

The empty stage, dramatic backlight“A New Canon” was the title of Mark Boulton’s (@markboulton) talk, and he delivered a great point: Working with the tools of yesterday will not work, you have to think from the structure and from the content and built your website around the content, not inserting the content into a design that was built around dummy text.

Sarah Parmenter (@sazzy) adds another insight about user experience – she spoke about the perception of products and how they are they’re promoted. A popular example she used was “The Pepsi Challenge”, a series of TV spots where people tasted Coke and Pepsi without seeing the artwork and said Pepsi is more tasty than Coke. In 9 years of campaign, Pepsi closed the gap to Coke from 14% to 1%. Speed, simplicity and surprise play an important role in engaging users with the product or service.

Elliot J. Stocks during his talk

After the short break, Elliot Jay Stocks (@elliotjaystocks), talked about how designing 8faces influenced his view of web design. Especially he is tired of the web 2.0 look: All those useless reflections, gradients and shadows. He even showed that text shadow can have the opposite outcome, depending on the background color. So you have to put a decent amount of thought into your designs, as there are no copy & paste answers.

The morning closed with Jon Tan’s (@jontangerine) excellent remarks about neuro-science and web design. The goal is to stimulate the lizard brain with web design, to trigger emotions and to “feel” the website.

After lunch, the morning speakers gathered to answer a few questions. I’m personally not a huge fan of discussion panels and both that day made me think that I’m right. While there were a few interesting questions, it was nothing where a classic Q&A section after the talks wouldn’t  be enough.

Tim Van Damme at the lectern

Then Tim Van Damme (@maxvoltar) spoke about the important foundations of our day-to-day work. It was not only a talk about good web techniques (like not using flash) but even about business implication if you’re a freelancer or a small agency. He proposed to make lists of what went good and bad in a project.

The New Adventures Paper: Front page on an envelope which says “Please do not bend”The #naconf Paper:
This event was so well crafted, it still amazes us. One of the greatest things was the goodie bag which even contained a print magazine, designed and written (almost) only for the conference attendees. If you weren’t at New Adventures, you can get one via the website. It is inexpensive and a great source for inspiration.

Greg Wood (@gregwood) showed some statistics about how art directed articles are better received. He showed two examples, a T-Rex article and a receipt, to his  guinea pigs. Half of them got the article styled, the other one unstyled. He found out that the art directed article was much more likely to be read.

Up next was Veerle Pieters (@vpieters), who talked about inspiration. We’ve anticipated some more hands on inspirational techniques, but the talked lacked information about things like mood boards. Her approach is just playing with visual details until she gets an idea that fits the project exactly. As someone who is rarely struck by inspiration this wasn’t really helpful.

Brendan Dawes in front of his slide with a quote by May-li Lee Khoe: “Life’s too short to own an ugly pencil”

Andy Clarke during his talk, Naconf logo in the back

Andy Clarke (@Malarkey), Brendan Dawes (@brendandawes) and another Q&A session concluded the day. Andy spoke about the dynamic of comics, looking on how the size and position of panels influences how you read the individual panel and the whole page. Look at „Understanding Comics“ by Scott McCloud (@scottmccloud) for even more input on that topic. Storytelling on web sites is still a very young phenomenon, and, as Andy said: Detectives are so 2010.

Brendan really surprised us with the most excited and energetic talk of them all, talking about product usability. It was clear that he really enjoys the topic, being a product designer himself producing MoviePeg. Brendan is a pencil addict, too. And he owns the best pencil sharpener in the world (which isn’t cat shaped).

Photos: Simon Collison by @stn1978, Elliot Jay Stocks & Andy Clarke by @natecroft, Brendan Dawes by @trilodge

The After-party:

We were invited to the Escucha, which is a nice place, to celebrate the event. Sadly the music was never in an acceptable volume range, so talking to others got extreme hard. That was even enforced by our tiredness, as we just arrived the other day. At least we got this great photo with @Colly, who I’d love to have talked to that evening — but I guess his voice was gone at that time anyway.

While making a photo of Sandra and Eric, Simon Collison stands behind them, looking into the camera.

This concludes out blog article about #naconf, we’ll be back next year. Stay tuned for another article about the Nottingham places of interest and Sherwood Forrest.

On the way to Nottingham

Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham is very famous. He took from the rich and gave to the poor. Simon Collison follows in Hood’s footsteps in organizing the New Adventures in Web Design conference, taking knowledge from great web designers and giving it to the visitors.

New Adventures in Web Design

We’ll attend the bowling event the night before (but we won’t bowl as we didn’t make it into a team). Come and talk to us!

The schedule of the conference is tightly packed. Dan Rubin is the first speaker, talking about the (new) language of web design. The other talks seems not to be that technical either, more stating approaches to our profession. Apart from the speakers with technical background I’m really looking forward to hear visual designers talking: Veerle Pieters, Tim van Damme & Greg Wood will focus on design in their talks. At 35 minutes each talk we should get many new ideas from the conference. Actually it’s a first to see all those speakers, so we really look forward to see each and everyone of them. (Yes, we’ve seen Andy Clarke and Dan Rubin at Fronteers, but not in an actual slideshow talk, more in a talkshow format.)

There won’t be any wifi on location, so expect us to be offline most of the time (roaming is expensive as hell), but we’ll try to get some coverage up after the conference.

We’re the first time in Nottingham, so if you want to tell us about great locations, like pubs (yes, we know there are several oldest in town) or sightseeings, we’ll appreciate comments. Feel free to add a comment if you’re in Nottingham, too, but make also sure you add yourself as an attendee on Lanyrd.

Fronteers 2010

To give this blog a head start here’s a short description of our visit to Amsterdam in October 2010, where we attended the annual Fronteers Congres. We’ve been there already in 2009 where we slept in a hotel.

This time around we chose another option which really rocked. We rented a house boat. This was a great decision.

Here you can see our boat, it is located in the Prinsengracht, near Berenstraat. See Google StreetView for exact details. The house boat consists of a nice room with a double bed, a bath room and a small kitchen with microwave.

Our host, an artist, was very nice and she even cleaned the boat each day and we got cookies once. The interior is very extravagant, much gold and red with fans in front of the windows to protect us from the nasty sunlight in the mornings. And as an additional bonus the boat lies in direct neighborhood to our most favorite restaurant in Amsterdam: “het Zwaantje”.

The Zwaantje is in the Berenstraat, and you can get really tasty food in real oldamsterdamish Flair. They even got carpets on the table – an ancient tradition in Amsterdam:

We like the Zwaantje because of its great atmosphere, the enthusiastic team makes us happy every time we are there, even if it is very busy. Many Dutch visit the restaurant, too so it has to be quite authentic.

But now back to the conference:

On the day before there was a small meetup called Fronteers Jam Session where I was allowed to talk about Accessibility. You can find my slides here. It was a great opportunity for all attendees to meet and get to know each other. The main event was at Pathé Tuschinski, a movie theatre which has a great atmosphere and great seats, too.

Day One:

After Justin made us do the HTML5 dance to wake up, we listened to the great Jeremy Keith who taught us how HTML5 is designed, a very insightful talk. Robert Nyman was up next, telling us about the secrets of JavaScript. While that talk was somehow basic, it had a few tricks and tips for everyone of us (except Jake Archibald and Nicholas Zakas probably).

Both talks made a great start into the two-day conference. Brad Neuberg showed us stunning SVG examples, Håkon Wium Lie talked about CSS3 and Stoyan Stefanov introduced us to mad performance tricks. Jina Bolton and Jake Archibald closed the day with a talk about workflow by the former and another very insightful JavaScript talk by the latter.

Day Two:

Real-World Responsive Design was the first talk of day two, where Stephen Hay showed best practice examples of adaptive websites. Paul Irish demoed a lot of new technologies after the coffee break, which let us glimpse into the future. Afterwards the owltastic Meagan Fisher led us the way through lifelike designs, using CSS3 and graceful degradation.

Instead of “High Performance JavaScript” by Nicholas Zakas we took the opportunity to watch the CSS breakout, starring Andy Clarke and Dan Rubin. That felt a bit unfair for Nicholas, but Andy and Dan, supported by Stephen Hay and Anne van Kesteren, did a great job in entertaining us. Oh, and we learned a few things, too. Sadly the accessibility talk by Steve Faulkner and Hans Hillen couldn’t keep up with the high quality. It was nice but somehow I had the feeling that the talk scared people away from doing accessible websites. Cameron Adams talked about browser animation, which was quite interesting but lacked practical examples. Another highlight was Chris Heilmann’s talk about reasons to be cheerful, where he reminded us about staying hungry to reach new goals.

All in all Fronteers was again a great conference like every year and we’ll come back in 2011, that’s for sure.

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More Information:

  • More photos by @ScreenOrigami on Flickr.
  • All talks in video format on Vimeo.

For a sneak preview look at this video by Chris Heilmann: